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Anti-mining lobby criticizes Rio Tinto's proposed A$1 sale of Blair Athol coal mine to TerraCom

Anti-mining group Lock the Gate Alliance urged Australia'sQueensland government to block Rio Tinto's sale of its mothballed Blair Athol coal mine to for A$1, ABC reportedJuly 12.

Under the proposed deal, TerraCom will also receive A$80million from the Blair Athol joint venture to meet the vendor's rehabilitation liabilityas determined by Queensland's department of environment heritage protection inNovember 2015.

Lock the Gate Alliance representative Rick Humphries seesthe sale as a move by the mining heavyweight to avoid liabilities.

"This is about Rio Tinto selling to a junior … butreally putting all the risk back on the Queensland taxpayer now and for futuregenerations," Humphries said.

Meanwhile, Institute for Energy Economics and FinancialAnalysis analyst Tim Buckley said the proposed sale could expose Australiantaxpayers up to hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental rehabilitationcosts.

According to Buckley, estimates from experts regardingrehabilitation costs range from A$100 million to A$300 million, withremediation to take decades to do.

"From Rio's perspective, to pay [A$80] million to avoidpaying a [A$300] million liability is an easy bet. It's a very sensible move ifRio can get away with it," the report cited Buckley as saying.